Suarez hat trick fires Barca to La Liga title

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Luis Suarez  AFP FILE PHOTO

Luis Suarez
AFP FILE PHOTO

MADRID: Barcelona sealed their 24th La Liga title as Luis Suarez took his tally for the season to 59 goals with a hat trick in a 3-0 win at Granada to hold off Real Madrid’s late-season surge.

Real registered their 12th consecutive La Liga win, 2-0 at Deportivo La Coruna thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s double, but finished a point behind their bitter rivals.

Suarez’s treble also sees him become the first player in seven years other than Ronaldo and Barca teammate Lionel Messi to win the Pichichi award for La Liga’s top goalscorer with 40.

“We are deserving champions,” said Suarez.


“We had to suffer, the pressure was put on us in the final few games, but this team is built to win titles.”

Barca had seemed set to cruise to the title until a run of three consecutive defeats for the first time in 13 years last month.

However, they bounced back like champions as, inspired by Suarez’s 14 goals, they scored 24 times without reply in the last five games to win the title.

“We played very well over the course of the season. We were top for many weeks and the most consistent team wins the title,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

“We have won six of the last eight titles, which shows the club has a winning mentality. We must value each title win because each one is very difficult.”

Barca were put under pressure early on as Ronaldo struck after just seven minutes to put Madrid in front in La Coruna.

However, their nerves were settled by a brilliant team move on 22 minutes as Neymar freed Jordi Alba down the left and his low cross was turned into an empty net by Suarez at the back post.

Suarez then doubled Barca’s advantage when he nipped in ahead of Andres Fernandez to head in Dani Alves’s cross at the near post.

Fernandez made excellent saves from a Messi free kick that was arrowing towards the top corner and Neymar to keep Granada in the game after the break.

And the Andalusians had the chance to set up a nervy finish but former Barca winger Isaac Cuenca’s shot was beaten away by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

However, fittingly Suarez sealed a stunning season when he completed his hat trick from Neymar’s unselfish square pass.

“Six leagues from the last eight speaks of the cycle of success we continue to maintain and have to try to extend as long as possible,” added Barca captain Andres Iniesta.

‘Never gave up’
Madrid’s record 12-game winning streak to end the season wasn’t enough to overcome the 12-point deficit they faced to Barca back in March.

“I am very proud of the players and what we have done,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

“We never gave up and we fought until the end.”

However, victory secured second place ahead of Champions League final opponents Atletico Madrid, whilst Ronaldo moved past the 50-goal mark for the sixth consecutive season.

The three-time World Player of the Year opened the scoring as he swept home Karim Benzema’s mishit effort at the back post.

Ronaldo’s second was slightly fortuitous as his header was deflected past the helpless Stipe Pletikosa by Pedro Mosquera.

However, the Portuguese could have had four before he was replaced at half time with one eye on the Champions League final on May 28 as he also hit the post and the crossbar before the break.

Atletico finished just three points behind Barca in third as second-half goals from Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann handed them a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo.

Torres hooked home the opener in spectacular fashion from Koke’s corner and nearly repeated the trick with a similar effort three minutes later, which came back off the bar and fell invitingly for Griezmann to head home his 32nd goal of the season.

Defeat saw Celta finish the season in sixth as Athletic Bilbao took fifth place with a 3-1 win over an under-strength Sevilla side ahead of their Europa League final against Liverpool on Wednesday.

AFP

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